News Story

Oakland ISD Head Says School Funding Broken; Not At Oakland ISD

Head of midlevel management and school service agency paid $250k in 2017

The superintendent of an intermediate school district in Southeast Michigan wrote an op-ed in the Oakland Press titled, “Time to fix Michigan’s broken school funding system.”

Wanda Cook-Robinson, whose pay from Oakland Schools was $250,279 in 2016-17, argues for a “new, fairer school funding system” that she says would help the 207,000 students she oversees.

What Cook-Robinson did not mention is that state funding for the midlevel agency she presides over has risen from $10.6 million in 2011-12 to $37.4 million in 2017-18, a $26.8 million increase. When adjusted for inflation and stated in 2018 dollars, that $10.6 million in 2011-12 is the equivalent of $11.6 million.

Oakland Schools didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Cook-Robinson also made a similar argument in a Crain’s Detroit Business article published in May. Crain’s stated in its article: “Michigan's public school funding has eroded in the past 18 years. Since 2000, pre-K-12 spending, adjusted for inflation, has fallen by $663 per pupil, while the U.S. average has increased by more than $1,400 per pupil.”

The per-student spending figures Crain’s used failed to account for there being 224,000 fewer students today than in 2000-01.

According to a Senate Fiscal Agency report, after adjusting for inflation, state public school funding on a per-student basis is almost the same today as it was in 2000-01, largely because of declining enrollment.

State-only funding for K-12 schools was $6,297 per pupil in 2000-01, the equivalent of $8,914 when stated in 2018 dollars. Michigan schools are budgeted to receive $8,811 per pupil in 2018-19.

The Senate Fiscal Agency reports that state funding for Michigan’s K-12 public schools, which does not include federal or local dollars, was $10.7 billion in 2000-01. The current 2018-19 state education budget authorizes $13.0 billion in state K-12 spending.

When adjusted for inflation, the $10.7 billion spent in 2000-01 is equivalent to $15.2 billion in 2018 dollars. State school funding fell during Michigan’s Lost Decade of the 2000s, followed by the Great Recession of 2008-09.

The trend reversed, beginning in 2011-12. School spending by just the state has risen from $7,144 in 2011-12 to $8,811 per pupil in 2018-19. After adjusting for inflation, Michigan’s K-12 schools are receiving $967 more per pupil this school year from the state than in 2011-12.

Intermediate school districts receive money from the state. They also have the power to levy property taxes; the Oakland ISD certified property tax rate was 3.3079 mills in 2017. Their officers are selected, in most cases, by the regular school district boards within the ISD. Legislation has been introduced to select ISD governing boards in popular elections.


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.